W;t Inspires Readers

W;t, by Margaret Edson, is the compelling story of cancer patient Vivian Bearing. The curious thing about W;t, is that it is not a novel, but rather a play. W;t is meant to be performed as a single, continuous play with no interruption. However, even with an interruption the drama would be hard to put down. Vivian Bearing starts the first scene with an introduction: “I have a few hours to live.” Right away, the reader is sucked into the story. It soon becomes clear that Bearing is suffering from ovarian cancer. The cancer has metastasized to a level in which it cannot be cured. Bearing is placed on experimental treatment to see if there is any possible way of stop the cancer’s spread. While this is taking place, Bearing leads the audience through a series of dialogues and flashbacks. Bearing shows through memories of both her youth and her college years that she has an incredible love for literature, especially the Holy Sonnets of John Donne. This specialty becomes her life’s work as a college professor of the sonnets of John Donne. These poems are alluded to and referenced throughout the entire production, portraying how Bearing seeks comfort in what she loves when confronted with pain. Edson makes use of various techniques that are normally not seen in other works of literature. Her protagonist is both narrator and actor, engaging the audience then turning to speak to a fellow character. This complete immersion into the mind of Vivian Bearing helps the audience to feel the many emotions Bearing experiences throughout the play, allowing them to associate on a more personal and intimate level with a character than any method an author has previously employed. Readers become aware of just how scary it really is to undergo something as dangerous as cancer. They follow Bearing through her feelings of defiance and bravado, to her reminiscing on past pleasurable events, to her small and scared view of the situation and finally to her turning point of realizing what truly matters in life. These widely varying emotions take readers on a roller coaster that keeps them glued to each page of the book. “I liked it. I read it all in one sitting and actually enjoyed wanting to know the ending,” says Hana Ah You, a senior. Lauren Suiter, also a senior, agrees, supporting that thought with: “It was a good quick read, and had insight into human character.” W;t, even though it is a quick read, does have that intense insight into human character that can often be lacking in other works. Vivian Bearing is not a superhero who undergoes cancer light-heartedly and comes out of the other end better than ever. She is an average, unremarkable English professor who is unprepared for the battle that faces her, yet attempts to deal with it in the best possible way she knows. Anyone can identify with this character and feel her struggles as their own. For anyone wishing to gain better knowledge of their own inner characters and what it means to live, W;t is the play for them. With its emotional twists and complete entrance into the mind of a character, W;t is one of those literary gems that whole-heartedly deserved its Pulitzer Prize in drama.